I grew up in Italy, so Prosciutto has always been part of my gastronomic landscape. I have vivid memories of my neighbor bracing a home-style, air-cured ham against her chest while she sawed off thick slivers. She’d drape them over slices of sweet cantaloupe, picked that morning in her garden before the sun got too hot.
For Prosciutto di Parma, we’d have to go to our neighborhood alimentari, where the counter man would expertly slice paper-thin sheets of the prized ham. We’d pair the slices with the freshest milky mozzarella or layer them onto bubbling hot pizza as it came out of the wood-burning oven. It tasted so different from my neighbor’s rustic meat: It virtually melted in your mouth and held a delicate balance between sweet and salty without either overpowering the other.
In the United States, Prosciutto di Parma is usually something you find on restaurant menus rather than in home kitchens, but let me assure you that prosciutto has plenty of applications in your cooking repertoire. In Italian kitchens, a leg of prosciutto is a work-horse, used over time in a multitude of ways until every last bit of the ham is used.
Because of its guaranteed high quality, Prosciutto di Parma is a cook’s best friend: Whether it’s the unadulterated centerpiece of a plate or part of a more elaborate dish. The ham raises any dish up to its excellent standards.
These responses are excerpts from Sara Jenkin’s Short Stack book “Prosciutto di Parma.” Visit Short Stack editions online to purchase a copy of “Prosciutto di Parma” by Sara Jenkins.